Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Open Letter to

From the site:
"PBworks is the world's largest provider of hosted business and educational workspaces. We host over 800,000 workspaces, serve millions of users per month, and 96% of PBworks business users would recommend PBworks to a friend."
Dear PBworks,

I recently created an account for myself, and a workspace for my group of 110 8th grade students. I have some personal experience using wikis and I was excited to integrate one into my classroom. After polling other educators on the subject, your service was recommended as a front runner in educational wiki products.

Only after I took the time to establish the wiki and create accounts for all of my students did I begin to run into problems. Confident that it was due only to my own learning curve, I set out to find the answers to my questions. Unfortunately, these problems seem to be on your end and not due to my inexperience with PBworks.

Problem #1 - No Password Reset
Your help section clearly states that passwords cannot be changed or recovered once an workspace account has been created. Why is this option unavailable? I wonder if members of the PBworks team have a background in middle school education. If so, they would know that the average middle level student practically forgets his/her own name after a long weekend. A password pre-selected by a teacher has no chance of enjoying a long-term stay in their developing brains.

Problem #2 - No Folder Hierarchy
In regard to organization, my plan had been to create a folder for each class section, and then nest other folders within it for different assignments or projects. This is as common organization framework for anyone using a Windows operating system, or any online user responsible for maintaining a website. It appears to be missing from Pbworks. While it is quite easy to create new folders to be displayed in the navigation bar, it is impossible to move them into other folders. Without this hierarchy system, it will be impossible to maintain a school year’s worth of student work.

A steering wheel is not considered an extra when purchasing a new car because it is something that simply needs to exist in order to make the product perform in the manner that is expected of it. I am not asking for advanced features. These are basic utilities that should come with a service such as yours.

In the end, I’ll probably suck it up and continue to use your service. After all, I am using a basic, free account. But I will certainly never pay for a service that has gaps in its back end that hinders deployment to my students. For a product that has adopted a freemium business model, you are not doing a very good job of enticing users to pay for membership.
Save to delicious Saved by 0 users
Digg Technorati StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl

1 Responses:

Kristine said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your opost, we're always looking for user feedback. Let me try to help you with your concerns.

Problem #1 Classroom account reset:

Classroom accounts were created for students that don't use email for their school work. Teachers can specify the exact user name and the password they would like to use for each student (to make it as simple or as sophisticated as you want).

Because there is no email associated with classroom accounts, PBworks can not confirm or ensure that a student requesting to change their password is who they say the are.

We know that students can and often do lose their passwords. This is why we provide a printed list for you with all the user names and passwords. Part of the list is for your personal reference and part of the list provides username/password cuts outs that you can hand out to your students. This list is automatically emailed to you, so if you student forgets their username/password and loses their printed slip, you can quickly look it up in your inbox.

I'm sure you understand that it's important to protect the private login information of each user, even those without email address. Without having an email confirmation, we can not confirm the identity of each classroom account. Instead we share all login details with you, the teacher, so you can manage this process.

Problem #2 - No Folder Hierarchy:

We understand how important it is to have a hierarchy of information. This is a feature that we have on our roadmap and will be available in the future.

If you have more concerns in the future, our ears are open. You can always email the support team at